In putting this mixtape together, I tried to show all the influences over my writing as I see it. This means many of the pieces are not poetry, but they are poetic, and inform my writing greatly.
1. How Do You Write A Poem
By Nikki Giovanni
and simply sit with a cup
of coffee and say to you
“i’m tired” don’t you know
those are my love words
and say to you “how was your
day” doesn’t that show
i care or say to you “we lost
a friend” and not want to share
that loss with strangers
-This was the first poem I ever remember loving. I read it in an anthology in the 8th grade and have read it so many times I still have it memorized. It’s remarkable in its ability to describe the comfort of long-term romantic love, a subject poets and lyricists tend to neglect because we deal in absolutes and passion. But the comfort, the honesty, the intimacy in this piece is inspiring.
2. Grape and X-Rays
By Eric von Radics
-A sentimental choice, but isn’t everything? My father is a songwriter, his songs are the soundtrack of my childhood. I have head his songs hundreds of times, and so of course they inform my work as an adult. My father focuses on narratives, small and simple stories; often sad ones. He is masterful about telling whole stories with concrete details. Watching him play guitar as I grew up taught me the work and dedication it takes to become truly good at anything, and I am grateful to him for that.
3. Oh Mistress Mine
-I believe every person should have a handful of Shakespeare passages memorized. Complicated, lyrical work is good for you. A gracious medicine.
4. Goodbye to All That
by Joan Didion
-Many if not most of the influences on my poetry are not poets, and some must be included, and of those included Joan Didion must come first. A disciple of Hemingway, Didion’s relentless quest for clarity is inspiring. Simple, declarative statements in the first person, exploring your inner life and motivations as a means to explain the world, I learned all of that from Didion. I’m still learning.
5. Angels in America
by Tony Kushner
Mormon Mother: Well it has something to do with God so it’s not very nice.
God splits the skin with a jagged thumbnail from throat to belly and then plunges a huge filthy hand in, he grabs hold of your bloody tubes and they slip to evade his grasp but he squeezes hard, he insists, he pulls and pulls till all your innards are yanked out and the pain! We can’t even talk about that. And then he stuffs them back, dirty, tangled and torn. It’s up to you to do the stitching.
Harper: And then up you get. And walk around.
Mormon Mother: Just mangled guts pretending.
Harper: That’s how people change.
-This play embodies and is maybe the origin of many of my obsessions: Queer history and survival, the flawed and failing experiment that is the United States, and the personal as it relates to the universal. If I have a bible, style guide, or desk reference, it is Angels in America.
By Jeanann Verlee
I think I’m hurt, Dad. I think I was the tough girl for too long. My body is a wafer, a thin, soft melt on a choir boy’s tongue.
-This was the epigraph of my first chapbook. Jeanann Verlee was my first slam poet love and I love her still. Writing about coming from somewhere poor and small and surviving abuse, are you kidding? I feel such a kinship.
By Anais Nin
There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic.
8. Party Girls
By Kristina Haynes
-Kristina Haynes was the first poet I followed on Tumblr, I built my career in her shadow. I admire how stark and intentionally feminine her work is. It’s such a brave and vulnerable thing.